Thousands of mourners Wednesday attended the funeral of Win Tin, agiant of Myanmar's pro-democracy movement, in an outpouring of grief for one ofthe country's best loved champions of freedom.Activists, political figures and ordinary citizens crowded a cemetery on the outskirtsof Yangon, filing past the coffin for a last glimpse of the co-founder of Myanmar'sopposition party.Many wore blue -- the colour of a prison uniform -- in tribute to Win Tin, who wasMyanmar's longest-serving political detainee under the former junta and whocontinued to wear a blue shirt after his release in 2008.A memorial ceremony was held earlier in a Yangon church for Win Tin, who died inhospital in the city early Monday at the age of 84.Mourners, many holding pictures of their hero aloft, described Win Tin as aninspiration to others in Myanmar, which was ruled by a military junta for nearlyhalf a century before a quasi-civilian regime took power in 2011.La Pyae Way, a 28-year-old political activist, said all young people should aspire tohis ideals and personal sacrifice."Whenever there are clouds above, he will always be our blue sky," he said.Rights campaigners, politicians and many in the international community havejoined the tributes to Win Tin's courage during nearly two decades of brutaltreatment in jail.Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said he was an "irreplaceableloss for Burma's human rights community" in a statement using the country'sformer name."His bravery in the face of cruel hardship continues to echo through Burma's fragilereform process," he added.Win Tin was a journalist by profession -- including a three-year stint as an editor atthe Agence France-Presse bureau in Yangon in the early 1950s -- but later enteredpolitics in response to the army's tyrannical rule which began when General Ne Winseized power in a coup in 1962.- 'Not yet truly free' -He formed the National League for Democracy with Aung San Suu Kyi in 1988 in thewake of a student-led pro-democracy uprising that ended in bloodshed.But he was imprisoned by the military the following year for his political activitiesand not released until 2008.During his incarceration he was interrogated for up to five days at a time, deprivedof sleep and adequate medical treatment, hooded and beaten.But he kept writing and was unflinching in his criticism of the military regime fromthe moment of his release.Suu Kyi, who was present at the funeral, penned a short note in homage to herlongtime ally, praising him as the "pride of the country, pride of humanity",according to a release by the NLD.The Nobel laureate, who was herself freed from a total of 15 years under housearrest in 2010, now leads her party in Myanmar's fledgling parliament after a waveof reforms under the new government.But the army retains huge power in the Southeast Asian nation, casting doubts overSuu Kyi's chances of becoming president after 2015 elections which are seen as alitmus test of the reforms.Win Tin consistently voiced caution about the pace of change in Myanmar,explaining in an interview with AFP last year that he wore a blue shirt in solidaritywith dissidents still held in jail and to show the world that his country was not yettruly free."I feel like I'm still in prison," he said.
Despite his steadfast loyalty to Suu Kyi, he was not afraid to voice disagreement -- arare attribute in a party where many are awed by "the Lady"."The only dissent comes from me," he told AFP last June.